Why do rental car companies make it so tough?

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I recently rented a vehicle at LAS. I booked the car in May for a late July pick up. Back in May, I was messing around on Autoslash.com and I wanted to see how much a Costco Club membership would save you on a rental car, so I punched in the info and said I was a Costco member. The results came back and sure enough, using a Costco membership discount got you the least expensive vehicle by quite a bit. Now, I didn’t have a Costco membership and the $60 fee would wipe out almost all of the savings, so I created another rental car request through Autoslash.com without using the Costco discount as an option.
The day before the trip, I wanted to add my Budget Fastlane number to my reservation but could not do so online. I call the 800 number and I’m told that my credit card on file expired. Okay, easy fix to add a new CC to the file. Then he asks for my Costco membership number. I tell him I don’t have one. He then says my $258 rate for 4 days won’t be honored because that was booked under a Costco discount code. We go back and forth for quite a while. Finally, he tells me the only option is to cancel my reservation and rebook it. I ask him for the rate, and he tells $450 for an economy (we had a mid-size SUV). It is now 1 AM and I have a morning flight out. I tell him I will leave it as for now and see what happens.
I go online and see a Costco membership for $60 with a $30 Costco gift card bonus. I sign up, get my number, and call Budget back. A different person tells me that I can’t add the Costco membership number to the reservation because that would be a modification and would cause the price to change to the current rate. I tell him it is not a modification since I am already booked on a Costco discount. We go back and forth, and it is now 1:45 AM.
I write to Autoslash and explain what is happening, ask for advice and go to bed. I get up at 6:30 AM to see an email from Autoslash saying that they can’t help with the Budget issue, but they did go ahead and book me 2 alternate reservations for about $280. I thought that was cool of Autoslash to do that.
When we arrive, I go to the counter, pick up my vehicle and no one even asks about a Costco membership. I had already cancelled one the additional reservations, so I decide to be a nice guy and walk over to the Thrifty desk and tell them I want to cancel. The service rep looks at me funny and says, “Don’t worry, if you don’t pick up the vehicle it will just get cancelled.” She doesn’t say when it will get cancelled and really didn’t care that I made the effort to cancel the reservation.
What I think happened is when I made the second vehicle request through Autoslash, it treated it as a modification rather than a new request and somehow kept Costco as one of the discount options. Maybe because I had the same location, date, and time. For future, I will change either the pickup time or drop off time by 15 minutes to make sure it is a brand new request.
Lessons learned:
Changing any detail of a reservation will cause you to lose the rate you have. I used to be able to call the rental car company directly and make a minor change ( moving the pickup or drop off time by 2 hours or less) but that seems to be a thing of the past. To be safe, plan on any change causing you to lose the old reservation rate.

Customer service for rental cars is a lost art. 10 years ago, there would have been a simple fix, especially for adding the Costco discount.

You might want to investigate a Costco membership if you rent in Las Vegas more than once a year. It should cover the cost of the membership.

When using a service like Autoslash, the other companies involved (in this case Priceline and Budget) don’t really want to help out with any problems.

Autoslash responded to my email in about 4 hours, offered a very good solution and provided their usual great service.
I wish Autoslash.com would start their own rental car company and run it the same way they run their current business. I would book with their rental car company every time, even if the price were a little higher. They do a great job of taking care of their customers.


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